Growing up, my family didn’t take regular vacations. Still, I’ve been to Puerto Rico, Kauai, the Philippines, Vancouver, North Carolina, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, and plenty of places in/around the Bay Area where I was reared. Since graduating from college, I’ve never really felt like I’ve been in a financial latitude, personally and as far as my family was concerned, to take a trip anywhere. Back in 2007, when I graduated from high school, my dad lost his job and we eventually lost our home. Ever since, his employment status has been a moving target and, well, vacations just don’t make sense when you’re wondering if you’ll be able to make rent on the place you reside in day to day.
Fast forward to mid-2015 and I’ve started what I guess I could consider my first “real job” – a salaried position, full benefits, business cards. Boy oh boy 😉 My parents are also working and we’re all in a position to begin to actually save money and plan something beyond a paycheck to paycheck existence.
Earlier this year, I remember talking to a number of coworkers and friends about travelling. I was in awe at the destinations they were considering – Thailand. Cambodia. Vietnam. South Korea. Brussels. The Netherlands. At the conclusion of these conversations, I always ended up questioning what the heck I was doing as an unattached, healthy woman in her late 20s by staying put, squandering the opportunities to head off someplace. After some thought, I eventually set my sights on Ireland – predominantly English speaking country, European, gorgeous scenery, lots of historical churches, birthplace of my current celebrity crush (Andrew Scott – Moriarty forever!!).
In no time at all, an itinerary was born –
3 weeks. SFO -> DUB
Rock of Cashel. Blarney Castle. Cork. Ring of Kerry. Skellig Michael. Dingle. Limerick. Cliffs of Moher. Doolin. Inis Mor. Dun Aenghus. Galway. Croagh Patrick. Strandhill. Enniskillen. Derry. Giants Causeway. Dunluce Castle. Carrick A-Rede. The Dark Hedges. Belfast. Tollymore National Tower. Strokestown Park & National Famine Museum. Bru na Boinne.
I scoured blogs, YouTube, Google Flights, Hopper, and TripAdvisor, to hammer out the finer points of booking flights, renting a car vs. public transportation, the best bed & breakfasts with proper Irish breakfasts, and pub etiquette.
And then in August, my dad drops me off at work and tells me that the following week would be his last; the company was laying people off.
I really wish I could say I met this announcement with grace, rallying around my dad with encouragement and support, but the truth is that I became quite antagonistic, very short-tempered and rude to him and the rest of my family members in general. As the idol of my own life-plans took a hit, I rounded on them fiercely and lashed out in my anger and disappointment.
In the weeks that followed, I stewed in my resentment toward them, the situation, and God. Can’t You just let me have my way? Why do other people get to go places? Is one trip too much to ask? One small hiccup and the very goodness and generosity of God Almighty was, to me, up for questioning and doubting.
I tried my hardest not to pray or read the Bible, too. I did not want to self-reflect, self-examine because the reality of my heart’s desires were there front and center. The true lord of my life was revealed and I didn’t want to stare back at a grotesque image of myself, utterly consumed and focused in on what I wanted, what I deemed best, when, and the manner in which I saw fit. I didn’t want to acknowledge how deeply I was drowning in the lies of what a fulfilling, meaningful life really consisted of. I didn’t want to admit how I doubted that knowing and enjoying God, and glorifying Him forever, would be truly satisfying.
In time, though, God showed me more and more how the circumstances He allowed were a demonstration, and not a lack, of His goodness, and how unrelenting His love is for me. In the midst of me growing more attached, in love with, and reliant on money and leisure, He showed me how easily they crumble, how the treasures here on Earth can be taken, how they will grow dull and fail under the weight of importance I ignorantly place on them. When I want to shortsightedly settle on the here and now, on building castles of sand, He sends the waves to topple them so that I might look up and away at the eternity He beckons me into. He anchors me in reality and directs my attention at those who still live in darkness and the shadow of death; He bids me look at the great harvest in which He would send me out into if only I paid attention, if only I cared more for the eternal state of souls than my own passing pleasures and mere distractions.
A month or so ago, God brought James 4:13-17 to mind –
“Boasting About Tomorrow
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”
It’s still hard for me to recognize how fleeting and fragile my time here on Earth is. It’s not natural for me to believe that I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and that I can’t make plans and accomplish them entirely on my own. And truthfully, I find it more than a little galling, this posture of capitulation to the Lord and what He wills. I can’t even bring myself to imagine saying “If the Lord wills” in regular conversation, even among many Christians.
But the reality is that I am no longer my own.
Christ has saved me; He is Lord and the acknowledgement of this in word and practice day by day is sweeter and more secure than all my best-laid plans, it is the best way, period.
My dad has since received an offer letter for another company and with the sense of gratitude and relief is some trepidation – I know I can be lulled back into a false sense of security in money, and that my attention and heart can turn once again to making my own plans, ignoring the Lord’s will and ways. to this I echo the words of an old hymn as a prayer –
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee. // Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. // Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.